Every corporation, big or small, has a responsibility towards the people it employs. And it goes both ways. It’s simple. A transaction is made or a service is performed, after which the effort receives acknowledgement in the form of dues. It is a legal agreement: a covenant.
So why is this covenant so often violated and disrespected?
Pakistan was once a country brimming with unexplored, untapped potential. Now, with globalisation and the advent of new technologies such as social media, every individual has the power to market their product and to provide unique services. Unfortunately, it seems there is a severe lack of professionalism that is severely inhibiting the efficient functioning of a young but rapidly growing urban economy.
Recently, an artist named Hani Taha went public with a complaint against Humayun Saeed’s production company. She claimed that Six Sigma Plus had not paid her and other artists for the last six months. Team ProperGaanda spoke to her a couple weeks ago in order to find out more about the incident. However, once Hani Taha publicly outed her employers, they immediately paid her in full and demanded she take down the post – which she refused to do till all the other artists were paid as well.
Team PG then reached out to two more artists who had similar complaints: Natalia Gul and Imran Ali Shaikh.
The latter, an actor and producer who has worked in the industry for 15-20 years, had a harrowing story to tell. According to him, even the most basic courtesy of respect and appreciation is not extended to most who work in the industry. No matter how much experience an artist has accumulated, he or she will be dragged through the mud by those who run the show. “The most painful thing is when you have put in your work – showed up on time, gone through thousands of takes, basically done your job – but ultimately you end up having to go door to door like a beggar asking for your dues.”
“Some people just break down as a result of this. They can’t take it. They become mentally ill and exhausted, and often end up leaving the country.”
Why is it so easy for corporations to treat their clients and employees in this way?
According to Ali Shaikh the biggest problem is that most people do not know their rights. They enter the workplace, stars in their eyes, dreaming big dreams; they place their trust in hardened and manipulative employers who exploit them to the fullest. People who have social clout and strong familial backing are the only ones who remain safe – and manage to become successful.
But it is not just the disadvantaged and the naive who fall prey to this kind of exploitation. It can happen to anyone. There are severe legal discrepancies that rob employees of the right to safeguard their futures. Ali Shaikh says: “Copies of the contracts are not given to actors. The clauses written in them only benefit the employers and big companies. Actors and artists work as slaves. For this reason, you need your own lawyers and contracts to protect you.”
A lack of basic legal knowledge can have a crippling effect. It is one of the greatest tools a person in power can use against someone they consider a subordinate. Unfortunately, this is easy to do in a country where people hesitate to seek justice because it can be such an arduous and ultimately unsuccessful process. This is a problem that goes beyond just large media corporations and film industries. It is an issue of ethics as well as basic decency and professionalism, principles that many people who are currently running businesses – big and small – have yet to learn.